Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Awww, nuts!

Walnuts, hickory nuts and beech nuts are all in relative abundance on our property this year. Trees that are not producing much mast this year are buckeyes and oak trees. Regardless, the squirrels are working hard, especially on the hickory nuts. It is not uncommon to wake up in the morning to hear little drops among the leaves, only to realize it isn't raining. Well, not from the sky, anyway. It is raining nuts, though! The metal roof on our house amplifies the sound when nuts and nut bits rain down from the trees. I have an image in my mind of the squirrels maniacally hurling husks and shell down at our house, laughing merrily in the early dawn light as they wake us from sound sleep.

Bits and pieces of nut shell fragments litter the property during late summer and early autumn. Can you pick them out among the gravel?

In addition to all the tiny shell remains, there are also a good number of nuts still in their husks. I can't tell if this one's been chewed, or if it's just rotten (or maybe both).

So what happened here? What caused a squirrel to gnaw and gnaw and gnaw on this hickory nut and then toss it away? Did it decide it wasn't yet ripe enough? Did it get disturbed by a hawk or another squirrel and decided it was better to abandon its post and its meal rather than stay where it was? Whatever the cause for abandonment, it gives us a good chance to see the kind of damage a squirrel's teeth can do. I sure don't ever want to be bitten by a squirrel!

This nut turned out to be a waste of time. It was more intact when I found it, but upon breaking it open, I found that the nut meat was not ripe. If you look closely, you can see some shininess to the meat right in the center of the photo. That is one raw nut. Yuck!

Just to give you an idea of size, here's a husked nut in the hand. I think this is a Shellbark Hickory nut. We definitely have Shagbark Hickories on our property, and this nut, along with some others I found, are much larger than the Shagbark nuts. I'll try to find some nuts from each species of tree to make some comparisons at a later date.

Much daintier is the nut of the Beech tree. I usually only find the husk after it has come open and dispersed the seed pods, but this year I have found quite a few where the seeds are still in the husk.

Without much effort, the 2 seed pods slip right out of the spiny husk. The seed pods kind of remind me of Hershey's kisses, but without the flat bottom.

What nuts are you seeing around these days?


Caroline said...

Only the ones that I work with!

Red said...

We only have the red squirrels and they feed on spruce cones. Same thing. They drop all day and then the squirrel goes to the pile every day all winter.

Judy said...

My whippet was bitten, almost right between the eyes, by a squirrel. He was SO hurt that the squirrel refused to be killed! Now we call him Scarface...